American Maidenhair Fern

American maidenhair fern is a classic, shade-grown fern. See more pictures of ferns.

American maidenhair ferns are probably the first plants that come to mind when you think of a shade garden. With their lacy, airy foliage and their capacity to grow with practically no sun at all, they are ideal candidates. The maidenhair fern is certainly a plant to recommend for shade gardens everywhere.

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Description of American maidenhair fern: The maidenhair fern bears finger-like fronds, which is the source of its second common name: five-finger maidenhair. The 1- to 21/2-foot deciduous fronds are supported by thin, wiry, black to deep brown stems borne on creeping rhizomes that form just beneath the surface of the soil. Each leaflet is wedge-shaped. The overall effect is of a delicate plant. But the plant is inherently tough: It is a common woodland resident in forests from Louisiana to Maine and Alaska. Ease of care of American maidenhair fern: Moderately easy.

Growing American maidenhair fern: The maidenhair fern is ideally suited to moist, but not wet, soil, especially soil rich in humus. It prefers some protection from strong winds. Most ferns prefer acid soils, but the maidenhair fern grows best in neutral or even alkaline ones.

Propagating American maidenhair fern: By division. It can also be grown from spores, a technique beyond the scope of most amateur gardeners.

Uses for American maidenhair fern: Naturalized in a forested area, maidenhair ferns help create a fresh, airy, "wild woods" look. Placed in the context of a more controlled garden, their fine-textured appearance helps impart an almost tropical feeling.

Related species of American maidenhair fern: 'Southern maidenhair' (Adiantum capillus-veneris), a native of southeastern North America, is similar but less hardy (USDA zone 7), with twice-divided fronds.

Scientific name of American maidenhair fern: Adiantum pedatum

Want more information on gardening and great plants you can grow? Try:

  • Shade Gardens: You don't need loads of direct sunlight to create a lush retreat in your yard, garden, or patio space. Learn how to plant a vital shade garden.
  • Shade Garden Plants: Find out about stunning options for planting that will make your shade garden unique and lovely.
  • Garden Types: There are many ways to cultivate a lush oasis around your home. Read about all the different types of gardens you can create.
  • Gardening: Get great tips on how to keep your garden healthy and thriving.